Danzig Versus Slayer: Who Boasts the Bigger Name?
Band Photo: Slayer (?)
Glenn Danzig’s recent comments and alleged behavior at Fun Fun Fun Fest provoked much talk among the heavy metal community. Mainstream publications such as Rolling Stone brought this conversation to a much larger audience. Besides trying to instigate a riot, Danzig bemoaned playing the Black Stage. He said he is as big as Slayer, so he should be on the larger Orange stage. The Slayer comment sparked a debate among Metal Underground’s readers. Who is bigger and more popular—Slayer or Danzig? Now that the question has been asked, I’ve done some searching to determine who has a larger fan base.
In addition to providing album sales numbers, I will look at some of the factors that contribute to the popularity of both bands. On one side, we have the blues-laden doom metal of Danzig. Often characterized as the Satanic Elvis, Danzig possesses unmistakable, deep vocal tones and lupine howls. Short but muscular, his mic-whipping, air-grabbing stage antics convey a barbaric image. On the other side, we have thrash metal legends, Slayer. In addition to being part of the Big 4 thrash acts of the 80s, they pushed the boundaries of speed, and broke ground for thrash, death and black metal. Kerry King's whammy bar solos perfectly relate the wicked vibe of each song. The battle cry of “SLAYEEEER” is as common at a metal concert as a Marshall half-stack.
Danzig showcased material as Danzig Legacy at Fun Fun Fun Fest, so Slayer is butting heads against not one band but three. The Misfits and Samhain portions of his set added a crossover appeal, which proved perfect for a fest that catered to punk and metal. Still, I’m going to assume that many of the Fiend Club members also listen to Danzig.
Besides Dave Lombardo, Slayer has boasted a stable lineup, without bringing over fans from previous bands. Kerry King spent time in Megadeth, but he doesn’t appear on any Megadeth albums, so he obviously didn’t pull fans from Megadeth. Fans will always recognize Dave Lombardo as Slayer’s drummer, even though he has commanded the beat for other bands such as Philm, Grip Inc. and Fantomas.
Slayer’s stability surely one-ups the musical-chair playing seen on each Danzig album following “4P.” Slayer boasts the same lineup—Tom Araya, Kerry King, Jeff Hanneman and Dave Lombardo, as it did on its 1983 debut “Show No Mercy.” Granted, Paul Bostaph (ex-Forbidden and Testament) spent nine years as Dave Lombardo’s replacement on drums.
Those nine years still represent more stability than the screen-length list of musicians that have played in Danzig and the Misfits. Most fans of Danzig’s solo band cite the first four records as his golden years. These recordings featured Chuck Biscuits, John Christ and Eerie Von. Since sending those three on their way, Prong’s Tommy Victor has become the go-to guy. Even though Metal Archives
lists Victor as a member since 1996, he is not credited until 2004 when he played guitar on “Circle of Snakes.”
Slayer’s solidarity of lineup has led to a continuity of sound. Sure, recent efforts such as “Christ Illusion” and “World Painted Blood” do not equal the quality of all albums up to and including “Seasons in the Abyss.” Danzig hasn’t released an album of “classic” consideration since “4P” in 1994. The Misfits and Samhain gained a much higher degree of popularity after disbanding. In fact, much of their popularity can be attributed to Metallica members wearing their t-shirts. Danzig and Slayer made their careers based on early material. Fans come out to concerts for the early material. This is the reason Slayer and Danzig became metal legends in the first place. Because many of these classic albums found a similar release schedule, fans were often faced with the challenge of buying the new Danzig or the new Slayer record.
Slayer and Danzig released defining records in 1988 and 1990. In 1988, Slayer released “South of Heaven,” while Danzig released his self-titled debut. “South of Heaven” peaked at position
#57 on the Billboard Charts and earned Silver status. Danzig charted at the 125th position.
Danzig’s “Mother” single, however, led to his debut to Gold status. Slayer followed up with “Seasons in the Abyss,” which landed at the 18th position and earned a Gold Record. That same year, Danzig reached the 45th position with “Danzig II: Lucifuge.”
Studio albums aren’t the sole indicator of this hypothetical contest. Slayer and Danzig also have a long list of movie credits. Slayer’s name appears on numerous soundtracks such as “Punisher: War Zone,” “Saw III,” “Judgment Night,” both “Jackass” films and “Gremlins 2.” Danzig-penned tracks also appear on the “Jackass” movie, as well as “The X-Files” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” TV shows. His most recent soundtrack contributions include “The Hangover” and Rob Zombies’ “Halloween.” Danzig made bit appearances in “The Prophecy II” and “Young Hollywood.” Slayer appeared on both late-night Jimmy shows—Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel. Danzig appeared on the network TV version of The John Stewart show in 1994,and recently made an appearance on Fox’s “The Red Eye.” In addition to his television and movie apperances, Glenn Danzig owns his own comic book company, Verotik, which he uses as a vehicle for horror stories
Merchandise represents another indicator of popularity outside the realm of musical releases. I see an abundance of Slayer and Danzig merch, especially Misfits t-shirts, but can’t say what band has higher sales. Next to Iron Maiden’s Eddie, The Crimson Ghost is the most visible mascot in heavy music. Borrowed from the 1946 Science Fiction television show, The Crimson Ghost is a marketing behemoth. Browsing Hot Topic’s Web site for Misfits’ merch yielded two pages of products. In addition to wearing the classic hooded skeleton on t-shirts, one can order headphones, hoodies, varsity jackets, bracelets, posters and other items.
A search for Slayer brought up only eleven items. While both bands, including Danzig’s solo band, have produced numerous items not listed on Hot Topic’s Web site, mall rats definitely show more love for all-things Danzig than Slayer. Both artists have archives of album-related t-shirts and other memorabilia. Because Slayer tours more often than Danzig, more fans may be decked out in "Slaytanic Wehrmacht" than the horned skull or Crimson Ghost. Without concrete numbers, I can not determine who sells more merch, though.
All of the above-listed information gives us factors to consider and reasons for both bands gaining legendary statuses, but in the end it’s about numbers. Who sold more recent albums—Slayer or Danzig? Danzig’s “Dethred Sabaoth,” released in 2010, sold 11, 700 copies in its first week of release in the United States, and landed at position #35. Slayer’s "World Painted Blood", released in 2009, peaked at position 12 and has sold 100,657. While current numbers of Danzig albums sold are not available, Slayer wears the heavy metal championship belt for pushing more units.
Some information is not available such as merchandize revenue and total units sold of “Dethred Sabaoth,” but based on Billboard chart positions and units sold, Slayer is a bigger name than Danzig. Slayer tours more often than Danzig and hasn’t muddied its name like Danzig did in his infamous “getting knocked out” video. Slayer recently participated in monumental Big 4 tour package with Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax. Although two decades late, Slayer holds two Grammies. Considering Danzig’s latest debacle, expect Slayer to move even further ahead of Danzig. What do you, the reader, think? Who is bigger—Slayer or Danzig?
Darren Cowan owns and operates Louder Than Hell.net. He has written for several metal publications. An avid metal head for over twenty years, he has attended concerts throughout several regions of the U.S.
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